ONEONTA — After a creaky opening, top-seeded Oneonta used a scary-good 20 minutes of offense to pull away from physical four seed Dryden, Wednesday, Oct. 30, at Wright National Soccer Campus.
Fitting, for the afternoon before Halloween.
“We knew we had to match them, and we were bodying them,” Oneonta’s Dylan Davi said. “We have to be the first to the ball, Mr. Brannan makes sure we are, and it’s about hyping us up to bring the energy and do that.”
E.J. Kavrazonis and Finlay Oliver each scored two goals and Davi had a pair of assists as the Yellowjackets notched a 5-0 victory Wednesday to reach the Section IV Class B boys soccer final.
While OHS eventually took a commanding 4-0 lead at halftime, it was Dryden that produced the game’s first flashpoint after just two minutes. The Lions’ speedy forward Nolan Weik chased a ball behind the Oneonta defense, beating onrushing Yellowjacket goalkeeper Brad Morell to the ball.
Morell was called for a foul after taking down Weik, but was not shown a card of any color for the offense.
“We knew they were physical, we knew that number two (Weik) was fast, and this was a good test for us because their conference is a lot more physical than ours,” Oneonta coach Alex Brannan said. “I thought there were more fouls (than were called), but that was also a play where we could have had a red card. He (Weik) was going to the side so maybe the official thought we would catch him.”
“We got a little deflated after that. It makes the kids not focus on playing the way they should because it’s so clear and obvious. The goalkeeper never touched the ball and I don’t understand it at all,” Dryden coach Laszlo Engel said. “But there’s nothing we can do about it, we had to keep playing. And by the time we started playing we were already down by four.”
Oneonta took full advantage of Dryden’s lapse, scoring twice in 47 seconds for a 2-0 lead after eight minutes. Davi keyed the first goal, intercepting a Dryden defender’s pass near the right sideline and carrying the ball all the way to the baseline before finding a low cross to Kavrazonis at the back post for a tap-in finish.
More attacking from wide spaces produced a corner kick seconds later, and a failed clearance fell to Matt Shultz about 15 yards from goal. Shultz laced a volley with his left foot, hitting the crossbar near the far post and bouncing in for a 2-0 lead with 32:16 left in the half.
“At practice, we have been going really hard so in the game it’s a lot easier,” Davi said. “We’ve practiced staying wide and going over the back, and it’s worked.”
The Yellowjackets continued to produce services into the box, compressing the Dryden defense and opening space in the midfield for creative forays into the penalty area. The result was a 3-0 lead as Shultz wiggled his way into the box before being fouled. Nick Stalder’s penalty kick was saved, but Oliver was on hand to put in the rebound.
Kavrazonis benefitted 10 minutes later from more good work on the right flank by Davi, putting OHS ahead, 4-0, with 15 minutes left in the half. Davi worked his way down the outside and sent a low ball into the middle where Kavrazonis beat his defender to the ball for a tumbling finish from close range.
“We knew we had to go down the outside and put the ball in the middle. We did it four times and bang-bang-bang-bang it’s four goals,” Brannan said. “Somtimes they need reminding but once they get it it’s been effective the last few games.”
At halftime, the Yellowjackets owned the shot count (6-3) and corner count (3-0).
The second half saw play even out as neither team produced too many chances. The Lions kept more possession in the Oneonta defensive third than in the first half, but failed to produce obvious scoring opportunities.
“Hastings (Otieno) was playing a little farther back and I was staying up a little more so if they played the ball over the top he could clear it,” Stalder said.
Oneonta’s best chances in the second stanza fell to Oliver, as he found himself through on the Dryden goal in the 53rd minute, only to hit his shot directly at goalkeeper Steven Morrow.
Oliver made sure to convert eight minutes later as Max Madej lifted a through ball to Oliver behind the left side of the Dryden defense. Morrow exited his goal to stop the ball from going out for a goal kick, but Oliver’s pace got him to the ball with plenty of angle left, and his volley zipped into an empty net for a 5-0 lead.
The late minutes saw some rough play, with Kavrazonis and Otieno each receiving a yellow card for OHS in the second half. Both teams finished with two yellow cards as Oneonta totaled advantages of 8-7 and 6-3 in shots and corner kicks, respectively.
Most importantly, the Yellowjackets will have a chance at a fourth consecutive section championship.
“The section, it’s always hard to do, but basically I have the same team as last year. We lost two real starters, but the year before we lost a lot. So our program is working well,” Brannan said.
“We’ll work hard the next two days, get our runs in the next two days,” Stalder said. “We’ll come to play Saturday and hope we can bring home another section title to Oneonta.”
The final is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 2, at WNSC. Kickoff time is yet to be announced.
Oneonta 5, Dryden 0
4-Dryden ..... 0 0 - 0
1-Oneonta ..... 4 1 - 5
Oneonta (15-2): E.J. Kavrazonis 2-0, Finlay Oliver 2-0, Matt Shultz 1-0, Dylan Davi 0-2, Max Madej 0-1.
Shots-corners: O 8-6; D 7-3.
Goalies: Brad Morell (O) 5; Steven Morrow (D) 3.